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Tutoring Special Needs Children

*Tutors of students with Special Needs can best tutor their students by being aware of legal issues that can impact the education of children with Special Needs. Many of these children have documented disabilities, and/or are students entitled to services under Section 504 and various portions of the ADA (American with Disabilities Act). The students' rights under these statutes often result in a decrease in the amount of homework, and the type of homework that they must complete.   These students may be granted special accommodations to help them complete their homework and take tests. For example, a student with Special Needs may be allowed to use calculators, even when others students aren't, they may get to take tests designed just for them, be entitled to consider different school placements, have the type and number of homework problems adjusted down, and/or... read more

Diet and Attention- What's the Connection?

Fad diets- you can't spend more than 10 minutes browsing the web without seeing something about a fad diet these days. We've all heard of them - Paleo, GAPS, Gluten-Free, grapefruit and eggs, gluten-free-casein-free, etc. We've all heard of the benefits of these diets for adults- weight loss being the primary goal here.   But what happens when you put your child on one of these diets?   For children and adults who suffer from celiac disease, eliminating gluten from your diet is of paramount importance to prevent immune damage to the body. However, research suggests that eliminating gluten from your diet if you do NOT have celiac disease might not be a great idea, primarily because it can actually cause gluten sensitivity and a reduced ability for your body to process the gluten molecule, which is a protein, appropriately. This can last many years, and can even cause hospitalization if you were to suddenly flood your body with gluten. This is the hallmark... read more

ADD/ADHD - How to teach and how to learn

  I have spent nearly two years working entirely with students that struggled with mild to severe ADD. First, both students with ADD and those who teach them need to be knowledgeable of WHAT ADD is.     A few basics: 1). ADD is NOT simply being easily distracted, or lack of focus. For the student suffering with it, it feels as if there is a mental fog around everything they do. Tasks requiring long and acute attention are draining for the average joe, but can feel nearly impossible or even painful to an ADD/ADHD student.    2). ADD is caused by by under-stimulation to the areas in the brain responsible for thinking, solving, and task management. I often hear older students (17-18 yrs) say they are not allowed to drink coffee. Coffee couldn't be more appropriate, actually (if you are on medication, talk to a doctor before adding coffee to your routine). In fact the drugs used for ADD are heavy-duty stimulants that are chemical cousins... read more

Need Help Focusing?

I am going to pass on a simple tip to you parents on how to get your child to focus when studying or doing homework.   Chewing gum!   I kid you not.  Chewing gum helps your brain focus and causes you to pay more attention to what you are reading or working on.   Special Education teachers have known this for years, but a recent study in the UK by Kate Morgan of Cardiff University was published in the British Journal of Psychology.  Previous research has shown that chewing gum can improve concentration in visual memory tasks. This study focused on the potential benefits of chewing gum during an audio memory task.  Kate Morgan, author of the study explained: "It's been well established by previous research that chewing gum can benefit some areas of cognition. In our study we focused on an audio task that involved short-term memory recall to see if chewing gum would improve concentration; especially in the latter... read more

Limited in time?

My number one advice to everyone is to never focus on obstacles; but instead, always keep your goals in sight.   As someone who spent most of her life in grad school or as a professor, the top excuse for not going back to school is time limitations. But that's just an excuse. You no doubt know people who have managed to accomplish what seems to be a million things at once. How in the heck do they do this in a 24-hour day?   There are a number of ways to combat the issue with time: Set a strict schedule that will help you become a better manager of this precious resource. A schedule does not limit you; it frees you to do the things that are the most important. Set a timer for 45 minutes, so you can focus on your work; then set another for 15 minutes, to take a break and get up. Prioritize your schoolwork. Become great at switching between tasks (this secret works very well if you have ADD/ADHD). If you have a few minutes, use it to study... read more

Best Thing You Can Do For Your Child.

A great number of parents have asked me how to best help their child. My answer is to be your child's biggest advocate and cheerleader.  If your child is struggling your child needs you to speak for them and help them get the tools they need. You can do this by researching the problem whether it be dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, OCD, test taking anxiety or other problem. Make sure to get a second opinion and have them evaluated by a specialist. As a parent who had a problem with a child with health issues that were unable to be diagnosed I had to be persistent in getting the answers I believed completely fit what was going on with my child.  Trust in your instinct no one knows your child better than you do.  Once you have a diagnosis and methods for helping your child follow through with the treatment plan consistently and give it a chance to work.  Remember change does not happen over night.  If it doesn't work then go back to researching... read more

Summer and High School Seniors

Well, school is out and the beach is calling! If you are a high school senior or the parent of one, you know that studying is probably not high on anyone’s list of preferred activities this time of year. But, if you are taking summer classes, need to do some catch-up on basics, complete summer reading and writing assignments for AP courses, or want to get serious about SAT test prep, now is a good time. The last year of high school is filled with great activities and a lot of excitement, but there are also expectations to master the three Rs before they hand out diplomas to the Class of 2014! This summer, consider tutoring if you need the extra boost that comes with 1:1 individualized instruction and coaching. If you’re not considering tutoring at this time, think about planning ahead for the next school year. And don’t forget, the SAT testing dates are fast approaching: the deadline to register for the October 5 test is September 6! Wishing you all a happy summer! --Laur... read more

Request for comments and suggestions regarding "Parental Alienation" in divorce or post-divorce cases

Please let me know your experience, or any helpful information you may have regarding Parental Alienation in divorce (or post-divorce) cases. I am deeply concerned for the well-being of some children who may be victims of Parental Alienation. I have been told that this is a form of child abuse, since it can seriously impact a child's self-esteem. Research shows that children in divorce cases are under stress, and when one parent "vilifies" the other parent, it can cause emotional damage to the child, or children. If you can take a minute to comment or email me directly, I would greatly appreciate your assistance. Thanks in advance--I hope to hear from you soon.

Meds or No Meds -- Improved Academic Performance for ADD ADHD Students

Over the past two years, I have discovered some very effective methods for helping ADD/ADHD students improve their concentration levels and ultimately their, academic performance. When my ADD/ADHD students struggle to concentrate, my job as a tutor is to find a solution. Tutoring one-on-one gives me the opportunity to make what a student believes is difficult extremely easy. Many times, students do not understand because they are not processing the information correctly. As a special needs educator, I make learning much easier. While many classroom teachers advocate ADD/ADHD medication, I believe that medication should be used: (1) as a last resort and (2) as a temporary fix while a long term solution is being sought and (3) in conjunction with other therapy and teaching that fosters good academic skills, reduces anxiety and tension at home and at school. As an experienced teacher, I have proven methods for treating ADD/ADHD students and improving their ability to concentrate... read more

Advice to my younger self- the student

IF I could go back in time and give my younger self some advice on how to be a better student, be more successful in school, life, etc, I would definitely tell myself that being involved in everything comes at a cost. It is better to find a few things that you like to do, do them well and often, than feeling stressed because there is so much on your plate at one time. Being a 'Jack of all Trades' it is natural for me to dip my toes in different waters- all at the same time, but that does not mean that I can give 100% to any of them at that time. While I was able to get good grades (A- average) while in school, I was impressed by how much better I did- and felt about my work- the few times that I scaled back on my activities. Another piece of advice that I wish that I could bestow upon my younger self would be to learn how to speak up in a group setting when someone is not fulfilling their part of an agreement. Now, this said, the best way to do this would be in a tactful... read more

Suggestions for finding the BEST tutor for your child or student.

When interviewing a prospective tutor, parents should ask about the tutor's skills and experience, and find out if the tutor truly enjoys teaching. When the tutor feels enthusiastic about the subject, and communicates well, the student has an opportunity to learn to enjoy the subject too. I recommend for parents to observe the first lesson to see the tutor's skills in action, and watch/listen carefully to future lessons when possible, to make sure the tutor has an encouraging, supportive attitude at all times. (Tutors should welcome and respond positively to the child's questions, and NEVER make the child feel "stupid," no matter what.) It is most important to have a safe and quiet place for studying, without distractions. I like to find a quiet table at a library, and work with students there. I welcome suggestions from parents, and I am always looking for ways to improve my teaching skills.

Social Thinking

I think it's safe to say that all teachers are concerned about the academic success of their students. However, something most of us don't consider on an everyday basis concerning our students is their social success. We oftentimes don't realize how difficult it is for some of our students to understand social cues, figure out the hidden rules in the school or social environment, or even how to appropriately interact with others around them. According to Michelle Garcia Winner, a Speech Language Pathologist, "Social thinking is what we do when we interact with people: we think about them. And how we think about people affects how we behave, which in turn affects how others respond to us, which in turn affects our own emotions." Being able to interact with others and actually be "social'" can be extremely intimidating for children, especially those on the autism spectrum. The website www.socialthinking.com provides some great information on this topic,... read more

You know you had an excellent tutor when you no longer need her!

The objective of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives. -Robert Maynard Hutchins I love this quotation because it makes visible that the role of any teacher or tutor should be to create independent people who love learning! It is not the role of a teacher or tutor to make students believe that they cannot achieve without them.

Different types of learners need different approaches to teaching

We've been told that each student tends to have a dominant learning style. In my experience, I would say that the Visual-Dominant Learning Style is most common (#1), then the Auditory Learning Style (#2), and then the Tactile or Kinetic Learning Style (#3). Some teachers seem to love talking a lot, so their students may get 90% of more of their information in the Auditory form. That is not good for some students. Other teachers and professors like to "put it all on the board," and let students do their own note-taking, and draw their own conclusions. There are some "teachers" who do not do very much explaining. Worst of all, a few teachers--at least-- actually discourage students from asking questions. (Amazing, but true, right?) Before I paint a picture that is too gloomy, please understand that I believe most teachers do a good job of teaching. Some teachers are great at their jobs. In typical classrooms, the visual and the auditory go together, so... read more

Tutoring for Special Education Students

Parents of students living with learning difficulties qualify for various academic accommodations. These include things that classroom teachers can incorporate into daily lesson plans, like extra time to complete homework and ability to take tests in a quiet location, to things that state education laws delegate to specially trained teachers, aides, and nurses, such as care for students with feeding tubes. This article summarizes the kinds of learning differences that most tutors can handle and when parents should seek a qualified Special Education tutor. What most tutors can handle Many tutors are current or former teachers, college professors, or substitute teachers. State teacher licensing laws require teaching candidates to receive Special Education instruction and experience before granted a teaching license. They also have practical experience helping students who are living with a variety of learning differences. Licensed teachers have experience accommodating... read more

Special Education Resources for Parents

Massachusetts Specific Resources: · http://www.doe.mass.edu/sped/ · http://www.doe.mass.edu/sped/iep/proguide.pdf · http://www.doe.mass.edu/sped/prb/pnps.pdf · http://www.masspac.org/ · http://www.mcpap.com/pdf/NavigatingTheSpecialEducationSystemInMassachusetts.pdf Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: · http://idea.ed.gov/ · http://nichcy.org/laws/idea · http://www.help4adhd.org/education/rights/idea General Learning Disabilities Information: · http://www.ncld.org/ · http://www.ldonline.org/ · http://www.ldanatl.org/ · http://nichcy.org/disability/specific/ld · http://www.cldinternational.org/ · http://www.cec.sped.org/am/template.cfm?section=Home ADHD/ADD: · http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/default.htm · http://www.add.org/ · http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml · http://www.chadd.org/ Dyslexia: · www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov · www... read more

The Measurement of Success

Sharing success stories can be a little bit heady – I’m not one to toot my own horn, but I am so very proud of my students and their accomplishments, it’s hard not to share! The following excerpt is taken from a student’s letter to the International Dyslexia Association in response to their “Honor A Teacher” campaign. Through mail and email, members, friends and supporters of IDA were invited to submit information about a special teacher, and “Unsung Hero” who has made significant contribution to their life or their child’s life. In my student’s letter to IDA she stated, “Kim is very patient, explains a lot, and never misses a day. She is kind, nice and friendly with a very warm personality. At first I was very nervous because I didn’t know the place or the people, but I was very comfortable with Kim. Kim is a very good teacher. I am thankful to have her versus any other teacher. I understand things the first time she explains them, my reading is much better now and I... read more

A Quick Primer on the Orton-Gillingham Methodology

The Orton-Gillingham methodology is a method of reading instruction that focuses on multi-sensory learning. The basic idea is that some students, particularly students with learning issues like dyslexia, benefit from using their senses to activate and retrain parts of the brain that are used in reading. As a result, Orton-Gillingham based instruction features a lot of interesting hands-on activities. From my own experience as a teacher and tutor, Orton-Gillingham methodologies work very well when they are used as intended and when instruction is not rushed. Reading issues often develop over years and sometimes take years to successfully address. Students must be receive systematic instruction in phonics where they do not move onto the next step until they demonstrate mastery of the current step. Some students move through the levels in days while others can take months. Some tutors will be less than forthcoming about how long reading instruction can take, but I prefer... read more

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